Kansas bill would let lawmakers, not public health officials, decide vaccination school requirements

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A hearing on vaccines caused a big crowd to gather at the Kansas State Capitol Thursday, with legislation being considered that could change the vaccination requirements at schools.

Currently vaccination requirements are decided on by the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, but some lawmakers say that’s not enough.

“I do believe there needs to be check and balances and that’s kind of the intent of my bill, to send that message. Right now, even if we objected to something that he did, we wouldn’t be able to stop it unless we proposed legislation,” said Rep. Steve Huebert (R) Valley City.

Huebert’s bill would require that the state legislature approve any new vaccination mandates from the KDHE with an exception for imminent public safety hazards.

KDHE currently has the power to decide which immunizations are needed for children to be enrolled in school.

Healthcare providers who testified were opposed to the bill.

“These diseases that we now kind of forget about because we’ve been vaccinating against them for so long, they’re life-altering, some of them are deadly,” said Pediatrician Dr. Randy Schumacher.

Schumacher, who is also a vaccine researcher, said that decisions on what vaccinations are required should not involve lawmakers and instead should be up to public health officials.

“The best people to be able to tell whether kids need this vaccine or not are the public health officials, the people at KDHE and it’s going to be taking that away from them,” he said.

Kansas ranks 49th in the nation for HPV vaccinations in females and 46th for Meningococcal vaccinations. It ranks in the middle for childhood immunizations.

The future of the bill is uncertain. It’s currently assigned to the House Education Committee, which might not debate the bill.

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